Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sewing 101

new sewing machine

My mother has been sewing since the age of ten. She made a lot of my clothes as I grew up, including my senior prom dress. Although she tried a few times to teach me sewing, my perfectionism and her natural genius were a terrible combination. It was too frustrating for me to struggle for hours on something she could do much better in five minutes. I didn't see the point.

A few years ago, I became interested in sewing very basic things. My mom helped me make a fleece pillowcase for a cat bed, and a wall hanging with pockets to hold hats and gloves. Using the machine was easier than I remembered. Over time I thought of more and more sewing tasks I'd like to be able to do. Then, a few months ago, I went to a crafting event hosted by a few women from my church. At one station we made scarves out of old T-shirts. I immediately saw many possibilities for the craft. Lindsey went to her sewing machine to bind up my scarf for me, and I thought, If I had a sewing machine, I could do things like this at home. That's it. It's time. So, knowing that my mom would be thrilled, I asked for and received a sewing machine for Christmas. :)


Crafting wasn't my only reason for wanting a machine. My fashion creativity has exceeded what's available for my budget and difficult body type. I see something, get inspired, and have an instant, specific mental picture of what I want. Then I waste many hours looking for it, and usually don't find it at all. I don't have delusions of making my entire wardrobe, but bringing a few mental pictures to life myself will be easier, cheaper, and more fulfilling.

I read good reviews of The Colette Sewing Handbook, so my mom added that to her gift. After reading it, I've concluded that while it is helpful, enjoyable, and beautiful to look at, it ought to be called The Perfectionist Sewing Handbook. The overall message is that if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right the first time. Buy top quality supplies. Make several cheap drafts of your garment until the fit is exactly right. Take months to make one item if you need to. While this is how I've operated for most of my life, nowadays I'm a little more low-key and don't mind learning from mistakes. (Plus, if the clothes are that fitted, what happens if you gain a few pounds? That's a new motivator.) My mom read the book before giving it to me, and told me not to be discouraged or feel pressured by it. She also said that in a lifetime of sewing, she's never used (or, in some cases, heard of) some of the recommended supplies. In any case, I'm happy to learn from both my mom and the book, and figure out what works for me.

cat pillow

Project #1 was a second fleece cat bed. My two cats have fought over the existing one since I made it. This was the most imperfect beginner project ever - just a square of fleece over a square pillow from Hancock's. I cut out the fleece using eyeball measurements (Gandalf was laying on it at the time), sewed three sides, flipped it, and put in a zipper. The zipper was backwards the first time, but my mom showed me what I did wrong and I fixed it easily. I felt like I had climbed Everest.


Project #2, completed Tuesday night, was a cover for my new Kindle. This pattern was also very inexact, adapted from a laptop cover pattern I saw on Pinterest. I used a measuring tape and tried to abide by the formula, but the cover came out a tiny bit short. (The mathy aspects of sewing will be my Waterloo.) I also didn't realize I needed a special tool to apply snaps, so I had to use Velcro dots instead. It'll do until I can make a better one. Preferably from a pattern meant for a Kindle. I have plenty of this fabric and batting, so I plan to make a camera case from it too.

As you can see, I'm purposely starting with simple, four-sided projects. :) Once I get more comfortable with those, I'll try basic garments. By spring I should be able to handle an A-line skirt. We'll see!


  1. Nice work! I have sewn a few things, but it feels tedious to me so I didn't really continue learning more. I hate the pinning part. :P

  2. Sewing is a mystery to me. I can sometimes manage a button replacement, but usually I pass these off to my teen daughter who is way more interested. These are really cute though! Good job.

  3. I'm sure your kitties are happy now that they have two beds, and I think your cover came out adorably. :)

  4. They look great! I am trying to learn but feeling hopelessly lost. Maybe we could try it together! :)

  5. I need you to teach me! I got a sewing machine for my birthday years ago and I've never used it. I don't even know where to start, but like you, I see all sorts of things and think, "I could so make that...if only I knew how to use a sewing machine" :)